21 days to no-fault divorce: the end of adultery and unreasonable behaviour - Boodle Hatfield

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16 Mar 2022

21 days to no-fault divorce: the end of adultery and unreasonable behaviour

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Katie Male View profile
2 min read

From 6 April 2022, divorce laws in England and Wales are changing such that it will no longer be required of - nor open to - a spouse looking to initiate a divorce to attribute blame for the breakdown of the marriage to the other. The new law introduces other changes too, such as limiting the circumstances in which a divorce petition (which will now be called an application) can be challenged by the respondent spouse and imposing a mandatory 20-week minimum period between the start of proceedings and the application for the first decree of divorce (previously the Decree Nisi, now the Conditional Order). Other terminology used in the divorce process has also been updated (the petitioner will be the applicant; the Decree Absolute will be the Final Order).

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service have confirmed that any divorce petitions drafted under the existing rules need to be lodged by 4pm on 31 March 2022. That includes online petitions, which will need to be submitted via the online portal by 4pm on 31 March, as well as paper applications, which will need to be received by the relevant court by 4pm on 31 March.

Between 31 March and 6 April 2022 there will be a brief period where, although the existing law still applies, it appears that no new divorce petitions will be capable of being processed, save for if they are deemed urgent, in which case they need to be received either by email or in hard copy by 4pm on 5 April 2022.

Therefore potential petitioners for whom it is an important stage in the process to set out in a formal court document what they perceive to have been the cause of the breakdown of their marriage, supported by specific allegations in relation to their spouse's adultery or unreasonable behaviour, need to take action now and ensure their petition has been received by the court by 4pm on 31 March. Any later and they will need either to satisfy the court that their petition should be treated as urgent (if received after 4pm on 31 March and before 4pm on 5 April) or to start again in the new, no-fault system (after 4pm on 5 April).

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